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HMO and Fucosyllactose: A Mother’s Gift That Spans Across Lifetimes

HMO- Been Around Longer Than You Know.

HMO's or their full name Human Milk Oligosaccharides are best described as complex bioengineered sugars that are naturally found within human breast milk (1). The reason why they are considered complex is that there are 200 currently known forms of different Human Milk Oligosaccharides.                                                                       

Each form of HMO has a different chemical structure and serves a different function (2).HMOs are considered to be the 3rd largest solid element in breast milk, only being beaten by fat and lactose, both of which contain no nutritive function. HMOs are mainly tasked with directly increasing the user's immunity levels, which is done through the promotion and protection of good gut bacteria. This is created through the strengthening of a person's gut barrier function and the blocking of negative pathogens. Also, it should be noted that a distinctive feature of HMO is that although it is found to be naturally present in breast milk, it is not extracted using actual human milk sugars. HMOs are created through a bio-fermentation process, making them near identical to their human breast milk variant (3).

Even though this may be the first time that you have heard of HMOs, the ingredient has been around as early as the 1950s (2). With HMOs picking up steam in the '80s where a large amount of research was done to discover all of the individual forms of HMOs. Today HMOs are commonly used with their main aim being to help improve the health of infants and adults around the world.

The Beneficial Applications of HMO

Strengthening an Infant's Immune System.
One of the benefits of HMOs is that it has been proven effective in reinforcing the immune health of infants. This is crucial, as it is well known that infants are very vulnerable to viruses and colds, which seems to become more and more unavoidable in today's day in age. HMOs, help to improve an infant's immune system by promoting the development of good intestinal flora and bacteria (1), thus improving their immunity levels. Studies have even gone to note that HMOs can also help to reduce the risk and severity of allergic reactions (1).

Protecting Infants from Intestinal Diseases
One of the scariest realities for many new mothers is caring for a premature infant, as premature infants are naturally more vulnerable than full-term infants due to their slower weight gain, making them more susceptible to various conditions (4). HMO's help mitigate this risk as it has been found successful in preventing various gastrointestinal diseases like Enterocolitis, which causes bacteria to invade the wall of the infant's intestine. As an antimicrobial, HMO prevents this disease by directly killing bacteria and reducing the rate of bacteria multiplication, preventing the severity of Enterocolitis (5).

May Support the Neuronal Development of Infants

HMOs have also been seen as beneficial to improving an infant's brain development. Evidence from a recent study suggests that brain development and cognition could be dependant on a person's gut health, calling this pathway the microbiota-gut-brain communication axis (6). This evidence suggests that HMOs can impact the microbiota-gut-brain communication axis, as the ability to promote good gut bacteria can lead to healthy microbiota composition. This gives HMO the potential to manage brain health and function, leading to increased memory and learning capabilities (6).

The First-Ever HMO Probiotic To Be Approved in Australia

HMO's have been used for decades and possess so many benefits with multiple recorded uses across the globe, but it is only as of the 1st of March this year that the first ever HMO probiotic (called PrebilacTM), had been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) for use as a prebiotic in dietary supplements and it's now making waves in the pharmaceutical field (7).

PrebilacTM is a component of HMO and is considered a collection of complex carbohydrates that are also found in naturally occurring breast milk. PrebilacTM is created through a stabilised HMO fermentation process in a specifically designed large scale production. PrebilacTM has the ability to improve an infant's immunity levels, brain development and also protects them against diseases (8). PrebilacTM already boasts a successful track record, with it is already being used in countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines (7).

Under its current arrangement the producer of PrebilacTM, BASF will become the only company allowed to supply Prebilac in Australia for the next two years. With the permitted max dosage being 1.2g daily for children between 1 and 3 years and then 2g for people between 4 and 17 and 5g for adults and above (7). PrebilacTM is also thought to be a very versatile product as it is able to be used in a powder, liquid or chewable tablet (7). 

What Does This Mean For The HMO Market?

PrebilacTM being approved in the Australian market is one of the many catalysts that have experts expecting an overall growth increase within the HMO market. Research suggests that the HMO market is poised for significant growth between 2021 to 2027, with an estimation being that it is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23% over the forecasted period (9).

The theory behind this growth is that there is an increasing amount of consumers who are becoming more concerned about their gut health and the promoting of good bacteria. Coupled with the growing consumption of dietary supplements this makes HMO a clear leader to remedy this growing demand (9) with its main application being used in infant supplements being the headliner of this global growth event.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this blog has opened your eyes to the unbeknownst world of Human Milk Oligosaccharides and its recent TGA approved product PrebilacTM. Expect to be hearing more about it as PrebilacTM has the potential to be a real reckoning force in the infant health space and with an untapped Australian market the sky is the limit. Make sure to keep watch for our upcoming blog where we discuss the transformative benefits of HMO for Adults.

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Reference List

1. Wiciński, M., Sawicka, E., Gębalski, J., Kubiak, K. and Malinowski, B., 2020. Human Milk Oligosaccharides: Health Benefits, Potential Applications in Infant Formulas, and Pharmacology. Nutrients, [online] 12(1), p.266. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 March 2021]. 

2. Bode, Lars, Human milk oligosaccharides: every baby needs a sugar mama. In: Glycobiology, Volume 22, Number 9, September 2012, P. 1147–1162.

3. Hegar, B., Wibowo, Y., Basrowi, R., Ranuh, R., Sudarmo, S., Munasir, Z., Atthiyah, A., Widodo, A., Supriatmo, Kadim, M., Suryawan, A., Diana, N., Manoppo, C. and Vandenplas, Y., 2019. The Role of Two Human Milk Oligosaccharides, 2′-Fucosyllactose and Lacto-N-Neotetraose, in Infant Nutrition. Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition, [online] 22(4), p.330. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 March 2021].

4. Demers-Mathieu, V., Qu, Y., Underwood, M., Borghese, R. and Dallas, D., 2018. Premature Infants have Lower Gastric Digestion Capacity for Human Milk Proteins than Term Infants. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition, [online] 66(5), pp.816-821. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 March 2021].

5 Bode, L., 2018. Human Milk Oligosaccharides in the Prevention of Necrotizing Enterocolitis: A Journey From in vitro and in vivo Models to Mother-Infant Cohort Studies. Frontiers in Pediatrics, [online] 6. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 March 2021].

5. Al-Khafaji, A., Jepsen, S., Christensen, K. and Vigsnæs, L., 2020. The potential of human milk oligosaccharides to impact the microbiota-gut-brain axis through modulation of the gut microbiota. Journal of Functional Foods, [online] 74. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 March 2021].

6. Koe, T., 2021. HMO in supplements: BASF the first to gain Australian approval to supply 2'FL for use as prebiotic. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 30 March 2021]. 

7. Nutrition, H., 2021. PREBILAC® 2'-FL. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 30 March 2021].

8. Research, G., 2020. Human Milk Oligosaccharides Market Size | Industry Report, 2027. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 30 March 2021].

9. Wire, B., 2021. The Nutritional Supplement Market in China (2018-2023) - A $40 Billion Opportunity Led by Swisse, Blackmores, Amway, Abbott, Nestle and Nu Skin - [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 30 March 2021]. 

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Tuesday, 16 August 2022

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